For decades, Calvin Klein was a brand known for revolutionizing the role of fashion for young people, flirting with controversy and leveraging cultural tensions to successfully challenge the status quo on what was considered ‘sexy.’ But amongst a new generation, Calvin Klein’s once iconic narratives were starting to feel archaic and out-of-touch. Calvin Klein needed a new story. How might Calvin Klein inject the brand into relevant cultural conversations in 2017, while staying true to its rich heritage as a cultural provocateur?
To re-establish Calvin Klein as a cultural leader, we immersed ourselves into the lives of Gen Z in China, Brazil, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. We conducted global “man on the street” interviews, exploring attitudes towards Calvin Klein messaging and broader attitudes around sex and sexuality. We supplemented research with intimate video diaries and in-person friendship groups.
What we discovered was a growing, global desire for change in society’s approach to sex and sexiness that extended far beyond the fashion industry’s traditional norms. Gen Z were downright angry by dated representations of sex and sexiness in industries like fashion, but also angered by governments, schools, and the media for their oversimplified and antiquated approach that often stigmatized sexual freedom and oversimplified sex, relegating it to the body and the bedroom. Brands that set out to empower them through ‘sexy’ communications often choose a shock factor over substance and dialogue, making them a source of anxiety, rather than confidence, for Gen Z.
Armed with our insights, it was clear that the burden was now on Calvin Klein, a modern provocateur, to prove itself and to liberate sex and sexiness from the status quo. We developed a renewed brand story for Calvin Klein and crafted a glossary of ‘sexy’ re-imagined for the modern age. With this, Calvin Klein could play its role as provocateur once again.
To help the Calvin Klein team bring this story to life, we developed an activation roadmap with a range of near-in and far-out ideas, as well as a tactical channel strategy and a brief for media partners. We worked closely with the team to connect them to a range of macro and micro influencers and personalities across the globe. These influencers ranged from people who were normalizing diverse representation and “un-othering,” to people dismissing old power dynamics in favor of creating their own platforms for expression, to artists inspiring intimate and sensorial experiences aimed at bringing diverse communities together.